17. The decadence of the Weimar Republic would never be tolerated by the Nazis, and so the good times quickly came to an end
Even if some club owners tried to get on the right side of the Nazi regime from the mid-1920s onwards, the decadent, liberal lifestyle of the Weimar Republic would always be at odds with the authoritarianism of National Socialist ideology. When the Nazis came to power in 1933, the writing was on the wall, not just for the Berlin nightlife but for many of its star performers and biggest fans. After all, a scene which celebrated homosexuality and where many of the biggest producers and stars were Jewish could never be allowed to continue under Hitler.
In fact, the end of the cabaret scene began before Hitler was named Chancellor. His predecessor Franz von Papen was a staunch Catholic. In the summer of 1932, he instructed the police to clamp down on all “amusements with dancing of a homosexual nature.” This meant that many of Berlin’s famous clubs and bars were subject to a strict curfew. Most were forced to close their doors by 10 pm at the latest. Soon after, same-sex couples were banned from dancing in public. This was only the beginning, however.
Within a matter of weeks of the Nazis coming to power, Hermann Goering was busying himself interfering in the private lives of German citizens. In February of 1933, dozens of Berlin venues were forcibly closed down. At the same time, gay men and transvestites were arrested and thrown into prison, often on trumped-up charges. Many more were subject to harassment and beatings in the street. The days of tolerance were well and truly over, and Germany was plunged into more than a decade of harsh and bloody authoritarian rule where even the slightest act of subversion might be punishable by death.
Where did we find this stuff? Here are our sources:
“Berlin was a liberal hotbed of homosexuality and a mecca for crossdressers and transvestites where the first male-to-female surgery was performed – until the Nazis came to power, new book reveals.” Daily Mail, November 2014.